The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom, but the government requires religious groups to register and can suspend the activities of those that do not do so or that engage in activities deemed to be inconsistent with the basis upon which they registered.
The constitution provides for the right of individuals to choose, practice, and change their religion. The constitution also guarantees the right of any citizen to sue the government for the violation of any constitutionally protected freedom.
The law on freedom of association governs relations between the government and religious groups. The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization (MINATD) and the presidency must approve and register religious groups to establish them as a legal organization and enable them to operate. Although the law prescribes no specific penalties for operating without official recognition, the government may suspend the activities of unregistered groups. Indigenous animist groups, however, are not required to register.
To register, a religious group must legally qualify as a religious congregation, defined as “any group of natural persons or corporate bodies whose vocation is divine worship” or “any group of persons living in community in accordance with a religious doctrine.” The religious group must submit a request for authorization, including the group’s charter describing planned activities, the names and functions of the group’s officials, and a declaration of commitment to comply with the law on freedom of association, to the relevant divisional (local level) office, who then forwards the documents to MINATD. MINATD reviews the file and sends it to the presidency with a recommendation to approve or deny. The president may then grant authorization by presidential decree. Official recognition confers no general tax benefits but allows religious groups to receive real estate as a tax-free gift for the conduct of their activities, allows missionaries to receive visas with longer validity, and permits public gathering and worship.
MINATD may issue an order to suspend any religious group for “disturbing public order,” which is not defined in the law, and the president may dissolve any previously authorized religious organization that “deviates from its initial focus.”
Mosques are controlled by local traditional rulers, who appoint and dismiss imams at their discretion.
The Ministry of Basic Education and the Ministry of Secondary Education require private schools that religious groups operate to meet the same curriculum, infrastructure, and teacher-training standards as state-operated schools.